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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Admiring the Temple Architecture at the former Chalukya Capital of Badami, Karnataka, India

I rode from Hampi through country roads to reach Badami by late afternoon. After some searching, I took shelter at a Karnataka tourism certified hotel next to the bus stand.


Badami, the erstwhile capital of the Chalukyas is situated in the Bijapur district of Karnataka and is about 502 km NW of Bangalore.


It was a fine winter morning and I left my hotel next to the bus stand with the plan to visit 3 places – the famous cave temples of Badami, the Bhutanatha Temple beside the Agastya Teertha Tank and Tipu’s Fort.


I rode to the cave temple entrance, parked my bike and bought my entry tickets. These tickets were valid for all the temples of Badami for that day. Additionally, I paid for the services of a tourist guide to help me understand and appreciate this historic structure better.


My guide told me that there were four cave temples, 3 of them dedicated to Vishnu and Shiva and the fourth one dedicated to Jainism.


At the first cave temple, I was greeted with the divine view of Ardhanareeshwara sculpture (a Shiva Parvathi combination) where the right portion resembles Shiva and the left represents Parvathi. There is a very beautifully carved Nataraja sculpture that has 18 hands. My guide used his handkerchief to reveal 81 different poses of the dancing Shiva.


The entire cave was chiselled beautifully including the entrance, the corridors, the ceilings, the idols and the sculptures themselves.


Next, we made our way to Cave 2, which is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and has fabulous sculptures of the Varaha and Trivikarma avatars. The guide also told me that the Varaha sculpture was the emblem of the Chalukyas.

Cave three is also dedicated to the Hindu deities. It has sculptures of Vishnu, Shiva, Hanuman and Indra. From this cave one can get a breathtaking view of the Agastya Terrtha Tank, the Badami Town and the Bhutanatha Temple below on the other side of the tank.


Cave four, dedicated to Jainism, has stunning sculptures of the tirthankaras, including the first, Adinath. It also contains a huge idol of Parshwanatha.


After seeing all the four cave temples, I realized that one, the Chalukyas were spiritually intense and two, they embraced all religions and gods.


Next on my agenda was the Bhutanatha temple, which I could spot from the top of the cave temples. It was on the other side of the Agastya Teertha Tank.


As I was slowly climbing down the steps, I noticed a huge commotion. Upon reaching closer, I found out that the monkeys were creating a racket. The monkeys of Badami are known for their notoriety and are known to steal a lot of stuff from the tourists.


The Bhutanatha temple proudly stood against the backdrop of the soapstone hills. The architecture was as intense as that of the neighbouring cave temples.


The surrounding lake and the hills in the background give this temple a “straight out of the post card” look.


After offering my prayers here, I proceeded to the fort of Tipu Sultan built in the 18th century on top of the Badami hills. Enroute, I passed a cave with Buddhist carvings.


The fort is pretty much in dilapidated condition, except for some of the canons, which have stood the test of time and gleam in the bright sunshine even till date.


I also went and examined small hut like chambers on the fort, which I guess were meant for hiding and shooting. There are a couple of small temples inside the fort and a small tank to store water.


At some corners of the fort, one can get excellent views of the entire Badami town and the  soapstone hills that surround it. At some stretches,the rocks and the hills look pretty similar to the Grand Canyon in the US, though they lack the depth.


Overall, Badami is one quiet town, with great history and lineage. It gets baked in summer, so winter months are the ideal tourist season.


I would strongly recommend people to visit this place and admire the rich temple architecture here before this gives in to time and turns into ruins!!



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